W-League: Finals-bound Newcastle savour free hit at desperate Melbourne City

Jets coach Craig Deans believes Newcastle’s 5-2 loss to Melbourne City first time around this season “means zero” heading into their crunch last-round W-League clash at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.

GETTING BACK: Gema Simon, in action against Canberra last week, could come into the starting side at left-back.

GETTING BACK: Gema Simon, in action against Canberra last week, could come into the starting side at left-back.

Deans says the only thing that does matter is “we’re in the finals and they’re not”.

Third-placed Newcastle (20 points) secured a top-four spot last week with a 5-1 victory over Canberra (16) and a chance of catching Sydney (22) for second place and a home semi-final. Two-time defending champions City (17) will be in danger of missing the play-offs if they don’t win the 8.15pm game.

It’s a stark difference to last season, when Newcastle needed victory over City in the final round to take fourth place from them. The Jets lost 2-0 after a 1-0 defeat to City earlier in the season.

This time, the Jets are safely in the finals but looking to hit back from a heavy defeat to the star-studded City.

Deans, though, said there was no need to change anything because of the round-three result.

“Everyone forgets that we lost Tori [Huster] at halftime to injury and Tash Prior not long into the second half with concussion, so we played half the game with some starting players missing,” Deans said.

“We had a few other issues off the field which were out of our control, it just wasn’t an ideal preparation as we would have liked. 

“To me, that game is gone. It means zero. It has no bearing on this game and if we won 5-2, it wouldn’t mean anything either. It’s a long time ago and as a team we don’t need to talk about it. We’re in the finals and they’re not yet and that’s all that matters.”

Deans expected City to handle the must-win situation well but said his side still had plenty to play for.

“We’ve been in their position the past two years and the only difference is we’ve done that with a young team of pretty much inexperienced players,” he said. “They have the luxury of doing it with pretty much a best XI of all international players. They all play for their national team so they obviously understand how to cope with pressure. They will be able to cope better with the situation.

“But it’s not our problem, we don’t have to worry about them. We’re just going to worry about ourselves and we’ve got a free game to prepare for the finals.

“There’s a little bit of pressure on us still because we want to finish second and have a home final, so we’re going to put expectations on ourselves to win the game. 

“The motivation for us is to play in a grand final, and that starts tomorrow, not the week after, because you can’t switch on and off when you feel like it. We want to keep playing and keep winning.”

He expected English international striker Jodie Taylor to return and boost City’s already impressive line up but said the Jets, who lead W-League attacks with 26 goals, had their own threats.

“We know what’s coming, we just have to be ready to deal with it,” he said.

“And we’ve got our players who can cause trouble, so they have to worry about us a little bit too.”

“We’ve scored more goals than any other team.

“But we’re not good enough yet to take any luxuries. We’ve just got to keep working hard and doing our best and hopefully it takes care of itself.”

Deans said defender Nikola Orgill would again be sidelined with illness, Cassidy Davis had an ankle problem and he was weighing up the risks and rewards of bringing Matildas defender Gema Simon back into his starting side.

Simon continues to build match fitness in her return from a knee injury.

“The only thing is if we look to bring Gema Simon back in,” he said of potential changes.

“She had another half an hour on the weekend and came through pretty well, so it’s just whether we take a risk and start her again or give her a bit off the bench.

“But we had a good result and don’t need to make any drastic changes. It’s just if we can play our strongest team, it’s another good game preparation for the finals.”